Last year Google added a new report to Analytics — the Social Report. For any marketer, but especially for small business owners, the Social Report is important.
- First, the data tells you which social platforms drive traffic to your site.
- Second, the report shows you if site visitors are making their way deeper into your Website.
- And third — and most important of all — it lets you know, in no uncertain terms — if social is driving conversions and/or revenue.
In Part One of this post, I’ll cover the various Tabs within the Social Report. I’ll also briefly discuss the implications of what all this data means.
In Part II, I’ll cover the Visitors Flow and Overview tabs, as well as how to set up your Goals and Conversions based on your personas.
In Part III, I’ll cover how to use a blog to build inbound links, engagement and leads (yes, I said leads).
This post is geared toward small business owners and marketers. I use my own data from Google Analytics. I do this because it’s important to me that you know I follow my own advice. I also use my own data to show that the advice I’m advocating works.
And finally, I want you to see that you don’t need thousands of followers or a deluge of content to make this work. Actually, less is probably a whole lot more. Why? Because you remove overwhelm, which is a huge problem right now with content marketing.
Ok, ready? Let’s go.
Step One: Open Google Analytics
To find the Social report, click “Traffic Sources” and then “Social” in the left side nav.
First, let’s look at the Network Referrals tab. With this tab, Google shows you all the visits from all social platforms. (The black “share” icons next to G+, Disqus, etc. denote Google’s Data Hub partners, which I discuss below.) To see the full report, click the “view full report” link at the bottom.
Click on each network referrer to see which pieces of content drove visits. In this next screenshot, you can see that the majority of traffic to my site from Facebook comes via my blog posts. This makes sense, as that’s the content I typically post on my Page (I’m not a heavy Facebook / Instagram type of user).
To determine how your social traffic compares to traffic from other sources — especially search — it pays to look at the following reports within Google Analytics:
- All Traffic report – Shows Organic, Referrals, and Direct traffic
- Referrals report – Shows the Websites that link to yours and send traffic
- Site Content / All Pages report – Shows top pages, visits to each page, and where they came from
By viewing traffic via these other reports, it puts your social traffic in context. With my site, for example, while I do get a relatively fair amount of traffic from social, search is the main traffic driver, as you can see in the next screenshot.
Again, this makes sense, as I’ve put the bulk of my efforts in the last year or so into good blog content while pulling back on social. Why? Because search is what drives real business for me. In fact, my top content is a post I wrote two years ago: 57 Things You Can Do Right Now to Improve Your Website.
Data Hub Activity Tab
Google has partnered with various content platforms and shows activity (or engagement) for these platforms in the Data Hub Activity Tab. You can see the full list of Partners in the Tab, but for our purposes, let’s focus on three partners you may already be using: G+, Disqus, and Pocket.
(You may also want to focus on Reddit or Meetup if either platform is an important part of your business. One note on Meetup: If you’re using the platform to meet people in a more personal setting versus business networking, don’t use your full name in your profile. Google indexes all of this information, so anything you post on Meetup shows up in the search results. #justsayin)
In the screenshot, you can see how Google is showing the activity from one of its Data Hub partners, in this case, Disqus, which is the social commenting tool I use on my blog.
However, if you click on the Events link, Google shows you how people are engaging with your content. This data is actually quite interesting. As you can see in the screenshot, Google shows you +1s, Disqus “likes” and Pocket “saves.” (Remember, this is all activity from its Data Hub partners.)
I hadn’t heard of Pocket until I saw it listed in this report and went to check it out. Pocket is a nifty application that lets you save in one place all the information you find during your Internet travels. Say you find a great article in your Facebook feed or on Twitter while you’re doing research for something else. Instead of sending the URL to yourself via email or reading it right then (and getting distracted for 45 minutes), you can save it to Pocket and read it later. It works across devices — save the URL on your desktop, read it later on your iPad. LOVE!
As you can see with the Data Hub Activity tab, Google is tracking people’s engagement with your content — and the more engagement you have, the better your rankings. This tracking lines up with everything Google has been saying of late about creating “helpful” content.
Helpful content is content people download, +1, share, comment on, save and read later, etc.
In order to see engagement from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn within this tab, you need to configure the Plugins Tab. For detailed information on how to configure, see Google’s Developers site for Web Analytics.
Landing Pages Tab
As with the Network Referrals tab, the Landing Pages tab shows you the top landing pages from social visits.
When you click any one of the links to a piece of content, Google then shows you the activity for it (albeit, activity associated with its Data Hub partners unless you’ve configured the Plugins Tab to show activity from FB, Twitter and LI). Clicking through to the post I’ve highlighted with an arrow, I see this:
The data from this tab has confirmed one of my “hunches,” namely, traffic from Twitter is more of what I call “hit and run” traffic; average time on site is 42 seconds. People come in from Twitter, skim my blog posts and quickly click back out. (I do the same thing with other people’s posts that I find on Twitter.)
People who leave comments naturally spend more time on my site as you can see with the second arrow.
With this tab, you can see which Websites or blog posts link to your content. In the screenshot, I’ve marked a post written by Casie Gillette of Komarketing Associates that she wrote for Search Engine Land about link building. In it, she cited a post I had written about the Container Store. As you can see in the screenshot, this trackback (or link) drove 26 visits to my site (at the time I took the screenshot).
Key Takeaway #1: It Pays to Blog
Google’s Social Report shows you, in black and white, how your social strategy is panning out. For me, it confirmed my number one “hunch”: that search is the driver of new business for me and that it’s my blog posts driving this traffic.
This makes sense as the people who hire me — small business owners — aren’t really on social media. (They’re too busy running their businesses.)
With this in mind, I made a concerted effort to write blog posts packed with practical information. Writing this type of blog content for your prospects gives you a number of benefits:
1. It shows your expertise
Writing with my prospects in mind has pushed me to delve deeper into social, search, and blogging in order to determine how all of this works together. The more I teach myself, the better content I write. I know this approach is working because when people call, they tell me, “I read everything on your Website. You’re obviously an expert.”
2. You *naturally* increase links back to your site — which Google loves
Last week a colleague called to inquire about my services and after talking for a bit, she commented that she and her partner had already gotten pricing from an SEO firm to optimize their new (and relatively small) site. The firm had quoted “a lot” of money to create “hundreds” of links back to their site, she told me.
Whoa! Whoa! Stop right there. I said, “You do not need an SEO firm to create links for you. You can do this yourself with a good blog.”
Great how-to information always gets picked up and/or linked to by other bloggers and publications. For those of you writing a B2B blog or considering it, not every piece of content you write will get picked up or linked to every single time.
But, if you post great content, consistently, you will find that over time, more people will link to you, use part of your content in their posts, ask you to write a guest blog post, or will interview you for their blog.
(That’s my “secret” anyway. Great content. Consistently. Jill Whalen is another person who uses this approach quite well.)
3. It increases engagement
As you can see from this post, Google is tracking people’s engagement with your content. One of the best ways to increase engagement is through comments on your blog. For smaller traffic’d blogs like mine, getting comments is hard. However, I stumbled on to the secret to increasing comments quite by accident.
Two years ago, I did a survey and learned, much to my surprise, that few, if any of my newsletter subscribers read my blog. At the time, I was creating original content for both. With data in hand, I made a huge shift and began repurposing my posts into my e-newsletter. I did this to save time.
And, to save even more time, I asked my subscribers to leave their comments on the original blog post (to which I added a link in the newsletter) versus emailing me their comments. This way, I could actually have a discussion with people, something I enjoy.
It worked! Comments increased, as did social shares. And, something else happened, too.
4. It increases leads and referrals
With Google tracking engagement, and with my inbound links increasing naturally, I began getting more leads through search because my content was getting found (despite my being a small fish in a huge marketing ocean). On top of that, because I’m writing content geared toward my audience, I’ve increased referrals as well. It’s been rather amazing.
Key takeaway #2 — Do what works for YOUR business
Look — a lot of noise exists today about what you should do or shouldn’t do with regard to online marketing. Here’s my advice: ANALYZE YOUR DATA and do what works for YOU (and ignore everyone else).
Maybe Facebook is right for your business — but then again, maybe it’s not. Maybe you’re a pretty cool tech company and your audience can be found on Reddit or other tech forums. Maybe a blog will work for you; maybe it won’t.
But you won’t know this unless you analyze your data and make your decisions based on it — not hunches, not guru-speak.
Agree? Disagree? Have questions or qualms about my approach? Have additional tips you’d like to share? Leave your comments. I (and Google) thank you.